For a film seemingly assembled from indie film clichés, St. Vincent is an enjoyable experience largely because of the performances of the actors manage to exceed the meager imagination of the script and direction.
The film’s title character, Vincent (Bill Murray), becomes the after school babysitter for the overly precocious 12-year old, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) after he and his mom Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) move in next door. Vincent is a cantankerous man, who drinks, gambles, and spends time with Daka (Naomi Watts), a pregnant stripper/prostitute. Of course, there is more to Vincent than his grouchy nature would imply, and it is quickly revealed to the audience that Vincent does a lot of good too. He becomes a father figure to Oliver, teaching him how to fight, gamble, and stick up for himself.
The performances make the film, and while I never would have thought to cast Naomi Watts as a Russian hooker, praise to whoever did. Her accent is very ‘Boris and Natasha,’ but it is genuinely funny often enough to be forgiven. I also loved Melissa McCarthy’s performance, as this is the first time I have seen her play someone resembling a human being rather than an over the top cartoon. Of course, Bill Murray is the central performance of the film, and while I don’t think he does anything new, it is definitely a quality performance, showing that while he always plays an enigmatic smart ass, there is a range of emotions that can still be expressed through that lens.
While enjoyable, the film merely ambles from one scene to the next, with minimal connective tissue holding the film together. In the case of Murray’s character, not changing so much as revealed, this works fine, but it really damages McCarthy’s character and the relationships in the film. There are a few times where Vincent and Maggie gets into arguments, with Vincent berating her with a very harsh view of single moms. This is never addressed or resolved, and is an example of one of the several issues or ideas the film raises but never engages with, leaving a hollow center to this middlebrow exercise.